Article

Ancient Indian Society

Greg Bailey

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2016 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0224
Ancient Indian Society

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This article provides bibliographic information on ancient Indian society from 2500 bce until 300 ce, with most of the relevant publications relating to the period 500 bce to 300 ce. For both periods we are almost entirely bereft of information about secular (and indeed religious) history, or political and social matters, except as filtered through a priestly lens, and as reported as asides, in their texts. Despite this, there has been a large body of scholarly writing on ancient Indian society, especially after 500 bce when both the textual and archeological evidence becomes more transparent. There is an abundance of material derived from both sources, yet interpretation of it has always been problematic, as the conceptual frames shaping the contents of the texts must first be understood in order to ascertain how the primary data drawn upon was to be presented. In addition, one of the problems in dealing with ancient Indian society that has become very apparent since the turn of the 21st century has been that imposed on scholars by reading contemporary Indian social problems back into the past. Under the influence of Subaltern studies, and especially of postcolonial theory, there has been a repositioning of some of the fundamental themes of ancient Indian social history. This has been especially so with the treatment of caste and has led to an increased questioning of the origin of caste and of its development in the early historical period.

Article.  7136 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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